The days here are measured. Each one that passes draws us ever closer to the end…when we will leave Far Iona—my Iona Céin. No one will know what that means but me. No one will feel the shame but me. We tried. I tried. I failed.
I work and sleep in my library almost constantly now, because it will soon be gone. The matriarch says that I should be thankful that for at least a time, I had it. The pages call me. The maps beckon. The owls watch from dilating pools of jet wherein I dream nightmares. How can I not? No one wishes me good-night, no one tucks the covers in around my neck and kisses me “sweet dreams” or better yet, “no dreams” at all.
Thus, I doze in the captain’s chair rocking and listen to the waves crash on the shore, to the books age and to the music of the great chime beyond the water…pretending it’s all not happening…that it is all a nightmare…that it will all somehow last, survive, continue. But time is finite and change is inevitable. In the twilight and the false dawn, in a moment of weakness I wonder if I will ever find such a place again knowing I will not.
Gone. Gone. Gone. It’s all gone.
We sailed into the mouth of the beast—against all odds we sailed. We gambled with the gods and we lost. They sleep now, draped over their oars, snoring at the benches, mouths agape in the throes of dream.
They do not yet know we are soon to leave; do not yet know I have betrayed them. Oh, but they will when we’ve cleared the ship shed and they see the stacks of cargo and I order them to retrieve and install the oar-wings then they will know this is no stretch of muscle for the sake of muscle—we are leaving.
“We shall sail the Sundancian Sea!” I had promised. And they cheered and I believed. They rowed and will keep rowing. It is their fate, I suppose, never to reach solid “home.”
And rowed right valiantly they have, to Idwelan’s Needles, through the Targun’s Gap and beyond to Far Iona. We ran our bronzed rams up on her white sands and slept under her green trees. We swam in her pools, marveled at her rainbow fishes, ate her nectarines, peaches, plumbs, pears, plucots, lemons and grapefruit, watched the trees turn white with blossoms that fell filling the courts with fragrance and snow,
And now we must leave her. Now we must give it all up. Now we must either submit to the Heen or…or what? Brave the Oanerles Sea? They will weep for it, knowing they will never arrive, never leave this ship. I will weep for it. I weep for it now. I never did build the holy shrine, never drink from the holy well.
We do not row because we must; we row because there is nothing else to do.
Where will I die? Master of a trireme…a sea lord no less! It is hard knowing I will not die on my own deck…watching the sea. I will not die in battle. Perhaps it will be in some leeches sanitarium, a place where the forgotten go to die and the living are already dead staring at walls without memory, shitting myself for uncaring people who but wait for me to give them what little gold I have in the hard currency of “getting it over with so they can go home.” Home…something I have never known. At least on Iona Céin, it would have been in a place I cared about—even if no one was present to care for me.
Oh, yes. Hell exists, my mariners. Hell is real and your oars reek of it.
A “man” thing…family is all that matters—or so I am told. And where will you host that family? I ask. Will they come visit you on your cot? Will they all cram into your death chamber when the time comes? Where will they gather when it is over and time to honor your memory? Where will they light the incense? Where will they make their offerings? Where will they stand and say, my father, my mother, they stood here?
They do not care—it’s a man thing…you see.
Kast, the deck dog cared. I remember the day she plunged into the icy sea after me and saved my life…the day I spoke to Wintar…the day he told me of Iona Céin. She should have let me drown for all his prophesies have served us. Oh, many armed wise one; oh, master of fate and destiny; read to me from your book.
You forgot to read me about this part.
Now it will belong to someone else who will know none of what happened here, none of the losses, none of the pain, none of the possibilities. None of what it means to want to protect or to want to be remembered as a protector, a provider, a strong rock upon which to cling. It is so hard to believe I will never hang my sword over my own hearth—from here on the stones I sleep upon will not belong to me…not belong to me…not belong to me…not belong to me…ever.
The days here are measured. Each one that passes draws us ever closer to the end.